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SEC releases Gamecocks’ 2021 football schedule

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Hmm.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

The South Carolina Gamecocks now know what they’ll be up against in new coach Shane Beamer’s first season, as the SEC league office released this fall’s football schedules on Wednesday afternoon.

After two consecutive non-conference games to open the season — including an eyebrow-raising trip TO East Carolina — SEC play opens the following week at Georgia, then continues in Week 4 vs. Kentucky. South Carolina gets a chance to catch its breath against Troy before diving into a three-game slate that features Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Texas A&M — but the most challenging stretch will come after the bye week, when the Gamecocks must face Florida, Missouri, Auburn, and then Clemson.

My initial takeaways...

  • I’m gonna say it again: I really don’t care for the trip to East Carolina. I know ECU’s status as a giant-slayer has slipped in recent seasons, but that’s still a historically dangerous program and the Gamecocks are very much rebuilding. I know the powers-that-be couldn’t have known all this at the time, but why was a trip to Greenville ever agreed to in the first place?
  • Eastern Illinois — pretty random! But for the time being, at least, I’d love to to see the Gamecocks take a page out of N.C. State’s book and load up their non-conference with teams like EIU. With Clemson as USC’s annual rival, it already has one marquee OOC opponent, and the SEC schedule speaks for itself. The Gamecocks simply don’t need to be making things any harder for this program than they need to be. South Carolina won’t be in playoff contention anytime soon and doesn’t need to worry about strength of schedule, so other than giving fans something interesting to watch, there’s just no point in having glamorous (and dangerous) OOC matchups.
  • It’s hard to say a bye week is worthless, but this one feels pretty ill-timed coming before that Florida-Missouri-Auburn-Clemson stretch to end the season. Yikes.
  • Also unfortunate is the placement of the Troy game in Week 5. Normally, that final OOC matchup would be reserved for the week before the Clemson game, serving as a de facto bye week and a chance to rest and heal up from the SEC schedule before taking on the big rivalry game. Instead, the Gamecocks will be wrapping things up with Auburn (which should be a game with plenty of storylines in itself, seeing as half of South Carolina’s coaching staff is now on the Plains).

Overall, I’m not sure how I feel about this schedule and its viability for success in Beamer’s first year. What do y’all think?